This is my first published article, ever! It hit this week in a new online foodie mag that anyone interested in cooking and writing about food and cooking should check out! http://thecookscook.com/
Oh, Mother Sauce! Published in The Cook’s Cook, August, September edition, 2014
Emilie is my chief child-wrangler (aka babysitter), the reason I can do my job, and keep my household out of chaos. She is also completely lost in the kitchen. She never learned how to cook and, now that she is pregnant, she feels like she should. I have volunteered to help her get started. Last night I was browsing my first-year textbook for ideas…and got stuck in the sauce section [and] the Five Mother Sauces: Béchamel, Espangnole (brown sauce), Hollandaise, Tomato, and Veloute. Those Mothers are exactly what all cooks need.
In culinary school you spend your whole first year learning the things that culinary instructors have been teaching for hundreds of years. You dice carrots into impossibly tiny cubes, brown bones from animals bigger than children; you learn what makes stock clear and how to keep a good edge on your chef’s knife. I went to food school when I was older than most, and had already done hard time in plenty of kitchens. I came with good knife skills and a depth of food experience – I haven’t met many foods I won’t eat.
I discovered in school that I am way more of a cook than a baker and that I much prefer to make a steaming pot of minestrone over a batch of cookies any day. I suck at making delicate pastry and love a good rustic free-form loaf of bread. I also discovered that I have a powerful nose. Having a good sniffer is a key kitchen skill.
Emilie is my chief child-wrangler (aka babysitter), the reason I can do my job, and keep my household out of chaos. She is also completely lost in the kitchen. She never learned how to cook and, now that she is pregnant, she feels like she should. I have volunteered to help her get started. Last night I was browsing my first-year textbook for ideas to start my “Emilie in the Kitchen” project and got stuck in the sauce section, day dreaming about Bercy, Bordelaise and Lyonnaise – elegant, small sauces, appropriate for lavish dinner parties and things neither Emilie nor I will ever use.
Instead, I took a step back to the Five Mother Sauces: Béchamel, Espangnole (brown sauce), Hollandaise, Tomato, and Veloute. Those Mothers are exactly what all cooks need, especially a good Béchamel and a basic tomato. Béchamel as the base for a good mac and cheese and for the purpose of keeping those rectangle boxes of powdery orange pasta thingies a rarity in the kitchen; tomato because a kid’s first bowl of spaghetti (think highchair, all exposed body parts covered in sauce) should be out of a pot, not a jar. I have served the boxes and jars too – there are times when dinner has to happen that way – but mastering a couple of Mothers will make it just as easy for Emilie – or any cook – to make the real thing.
Mac and Cheese
Serves 4 to 6
- 591 ml (2-1/2 cups) milk
- Half an onion
- 56.7 grams (4 tablespoons) butter
- 31 grams (1/4 cup) flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 125 grams (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese*
- 454 grams (1 pound elbow) macaroni, farfalle, or other dry pasta
- Crushed potato chips or panko bread crumbs, optional
*There are a million combos of cheese you can add, and seasonings too. I sometimes add chopped tomatoes or ham and often add dried mustard or cayenne. I often double or triple the recipe and freeze the sauce for later use.
1. If planning to bake the pasta, preheat oven to 177 degrees C./ 350 degrees F. Put milk and onion (if using) in a small saucepan. Heat just until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan, then remove from heat and set aside.
2. In another saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and add flour. Use a wooden spoon to mix and keep stirring for a minute or two until it starts to smell a little nutty. Discard the onion and pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture. Whisk until any lumps are gone. Add cheese and whisk until it melts.
3. Add the sauce to the cooked pasta and serve immediately. If desired, top the pasta with crushed potato chips or panko, and transfer to a baking dish. Bake uncovered until browned on top, 15-20 minutes.
Basic Tomato Sauce
You can add any number of things to this sauce. I sometimes brown sausage or ground beef before starting with onions and garlic. Capers and olives are good adds too, especially when you add a can of good Italian tuna. At first I thought that tuna was an odd add but it is a cheap way to enrich the sauce. Delish.
Makes about 3 cups
- 1/4 cup diced white onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 750 grams (26.46 ounces) box Pomi strained tomatoes
- One parmesan rind, optional
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh basil, fresh oregano, or other fresh herbs, chopped
1. Sauté the onion in the olive oil over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until tender but not browned, about 1 more minute.
2. Add the tomato sauce and parmesan rind, if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Add any herbs in the last five minutes before serving or freezing.
Eileen O’Toole is a food service professional who manages, teaches, and cooks in Minneapolis, MN. Her true passion is figuring out and teaching others how to keep good farmer’s market food in the fridge… Read More